New Missal translation gets support
An American priests' organisation, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, has voiced its support for a literal and accurate English translation of the Roman Missal.
In a recent announcement the Confraternity disputed a letter that the National Coalition of American Nuns had sent to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The letter encouraged rejecting literal accuracy in the upcoming translation of the Missal.
Defending literal accuracy, the Confraternity called for the liturgy to be celebrated 'worthily, with attention and devotion.' This could only be done through an accurate and literal translation from the definitive Latin text.
The group responded to criticism that the laity would not understand more literal translations. 'The congregation is more educated and sophisticated than purported by those who insist accurate and literal translations from the Latin into English would be confusing at best and frustrating at worst.'
The Confraternity defended the literal translation of the Nicene Creed, especially the words presently translated as 'one in being.' The Nicene Creed in its original languages uses a word whose literal translation is 'consubstantial.'
The group also endorsed restoring the descriptions of Christ that have a sense of divinity, words such as 'holy,' 'sacred,' 'venerable,' and 'immaculate.'
In a forceful call for a more elevated liturgy, the Confraternity explained the need for a dignified translation. 'We live in a culture where the vulgar, crass and obscene are part of everyday conversation. It proliferates through the media at all levels: radio, television, movies, theatre, magazines, and the internet. Yet, good taste and graceful language are not archaic. Sacred worship requires a sacred vocabulary and nomenclature which expresses the value and need for reverence for 'the Holy' and which transcends the secular world and allows the worshipper to approach the threshold of heaven.'
Catholic News Agency
Jesuit college warned over pro-choice conference
An American bishop has strongly criticised a Jesuit-run college in his diocese, warning that he could withdraw its recognition as a Catholic institution.
Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, issued a statement on 10 October, responding to protests from lay Catholics about plans for a conference at the College of the Holy Cross in which Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts would make presentations. Siding with the pro-life protestors, Bishop McManus disclosed that he had urged Holy Cross to cancel the conference plans.
The organisations participating in the scheduled event, the bishop said, 'promote positions on artificial contraception and abortion that are contrary to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.' Pointing out that the Church's position on key issues involving respect for life was 'manifestly clear,' he questioned why a Catholic college would offer such groups a forum.
He argued that by cancelling the conference Holy Cross would not infringe upon academic freedom, but would 'make unambiguously clear the Catholic identity and mission of the College of the Holy Cross.'
Bishop McManus noted that as the head of the Worcester Diocese in which Holy Cross is located he has the 'pastoral and canonical responsibility to determine what institutions can properly call themselves Catholic,' adding, 'This is a duty that I do not take lightly'.
Catholic World News
Cardinal Newman's beatification
The Vatican Congregation for Saints is considering the beatification of John Henry Newman after indications he may have worked his first miracle.
A 69 year-old American was inexplicably cured of a crippling back condition after praying to the cardinal. Deacon Jack Sullivan from Massachusetts was 'bent double' by his condition, but was able to 'walk about straight' after petitioning Cardinal Newman for assistance.
Officials from the Archdiocese of Boston investigated the cure and concluded it was genuine. The Congregation for Saints must still approve the case. If the Pope then gives his assent, Cardinal Newman could be beatified by the end of 2008. After beatification, he will be honoured with the title 'Blessed.'
One Vatican source said: 'The approval of the miracle is expected to be the last significant hurdle. The Congregation's experts are well advanced in their work, and all the signs look positive. We could even have a decision by Christmas '.
Peter Jennings, the spokesman for the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory, founded by Newman in 1848, expressed his hopes for a beatification: 'The Catholic Church has gone through a very difficult period in the last few years and this would be a tremendous morale boost.'
If Cardinal Newman is beatified, he will need one more miracle to be canonised.
Catholic News Agency
Pushing the liturgical boundaries
The Dutch Dominicans, with the consent of the order's provincials, has distributed in all of Holland's 1,300 Catholic parishes a booklet titled Kerk en Ambt (The Church and the Ministry) in which they propose to make into a general rule what is already practised in many parts of Holland.
The Dominicans propose that, in the absence of a priest, a person chosen from a community should preside over the celebration of the Mass: 'Whether they be men or women, homo- or heterosexual, married or unmarried is irrelevant.'
The person selected and the community are exhorted to pronounce together the words of the institution of the Eucharist: 'Pronouncing these words is not thought to be the sole prerogative of the priest. The words constitute a conscious declaration of faith by the whole community.'
The booklet's first pages are dedicated to a description of what happens on Sundays in the churches of Holland.
Because of a shortage of priests, the Mass is not celebrated in all the churches. From 2002 to 2004, the overall number of Sunday Masses in Holland fell from 2,200 to 1,900. At the same time, there was a rise from 550 to 630 in the number of 'services of Word and communion,' meaning substitute liturgies, without a priest and therefore without sacramental celebration, in which communion is distributed using hosts that were consecrated earlier.
In some churches, the faithful clearly understand the distinction between the Mass and the substitute rite. But in others they don't, and the two ceremonies are thought to be equal in value, entirely interchangeable. Even more, the fact that it is a group of the faithful that selects the man or woman who leads the celebration of the substitute liturgy reinforces among the faithful the idea that their selection 'from below' is more important than the sending of a priest from outside of the community, and 'from above.'
The same is true of the formulation of the prayers and the arrangement of the rite. It's preferred to give creativity free rein. The words of consecration are often replaced during the Mass by 'expressions easier to understand and more in tune with modern faith experience.'
The idea that the Mass is a 'sacrifice' - the Dutch Dominicans maintain - is also connected to a 'vertical,' hierarchical model in which only the priest may validly pronounce the words of consecration. A male and celibate priest, as prescribed by 'an antiquated view of sexuality.'
But the model of the Church as the 'people of God' produces a more liberal and egalitarian vision of the Eucharist, as a simple 'sharing of bread and wine by brothers and sisters, in which Jesus is in our midst,' as 'a table which is open also for people from different religious traditions.'
The Dutch bishops' conference has so far refrained from making an official reply while letting it be known that the Dominicans' booklet conflicted 'with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.'
Meanwhile, the Dominicans have announced that the booklet will be reprinted soon, after the first 2,500 copies quickly ran out.
Sandro Magister (Rome)
Choice of dissenting guest speaker criticised
In Austin, Texas, Bishop Gregory Aymond objected to a planned lecture at St Edward's University to be given by a priest who has previously been disciplined for dissent from Catholic teaching.
The university had invited Father Charles Curran, a professor of theology and ethics at Southern Methodist University, to lecture on Blessed Pope John XXIII.
The priest is controversial because in the 1960s he publicly dissented from Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, and has since questioned Church teaching on homosexuality, premarital sex, euthanasia and in-vitro fertilisation.
In 1986 Pope John Paul II removed him from his teaching position at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Fr Curran has also been prohibited from teaching in Catholic colleges and universities or calling himself a Catholic theologian.
Bishop Aymond explained his objections: 'I believe that it does not foster the Catholic identity of a university to present him as a guest lecturer.' He also emphasised the duties of Catholic professors, saying 'theologians and teachers, whether they are clergy, religious or lay, are empowered to teach the Church's teaching and not their own opinion.'
Whether or not the university accepts his offer, the bishop expressed a desire to work with the university in selecting future guest lecturers.
Father Curran believed the bishop's attention was unlikely to hurt attendance at his lecture. 'If you condemn a movie, you're going to get more people to go see it,' he said.
Catholic News Agency
Women and married priests petition circulated
Australia's parish priests have been asked for their support by the organisers of a petition to be submitted to the bishops at their next meeting.
The petition calls for 'new forms of ministry and leadership' and among other things for encouragement of 'wide-ranging discussion of the role of women in ministry and in the authority structures of the Church, including the question of women's ordination'.
A circular letter dated 28 October and signed by Paul Collins and Frank Purcell said that the petition had received 11,000 signatures, including those of 'at least eighty priests', adding, 'we have had strong support from a number of the bishops, including a public letter from Bishop Pat Power. We are actually working with four of the bishops to get the petition on the agenda of the plenary session of the Bishops' Conference in November. The recent publicity surrounding Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's book highlights the same issues ...'.
Warning on 'atheism for kids' movie
A new movie starring Nicole Kidman will belittle Catholicism and promote atheism to children, warned the US Catholic League President Bill Donohue in October.
The movie The Golden Compass is being produced by New Line Cinema and Scholastic Entertainment. It is based on the first volume of the His Dark Materials trilogy of books, written by the militant English atheist Philip Pullman.
'Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells,' said Mr Donohue. 'The trilogy, His Dark Materials, was written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. The target audience is children and adolescents. Each book becomes progressively more aggressive in its denigration of Christianity and promotion of atheism.'
Mr Donohue cautioned that a watered-down version of the film would deceive people into buying the books for children. 'The movie is bait for the books,' he said. 'To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman's books for Christmas.'
The Catholic League is conducting a nationwide two-month protest of Pullman's books and has prepared a booklet titled The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked for those concerned about the movie.
Catholic News Agency